M.J. Akbar resigns to fight sexual harassment accusations

Elias Hubbard
October 18, 2018

Indian minister MJ Akbar said on Wednesday he had resigned to fight allegations of sexual harassment levied by several women, the biggest scalp in the country's #MeToo movement that gathered momentum last week. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who met with Akbar on Sunday to discuss the allegations against him, declined to comment on his claims of innocence. He subsequently filed a defamation suit against Priya Ramani, a senior journalist who had accused him of inappropriate behaviour.

The resignation came as Prime Minister Narendra Modi was under attack from the opposition for his silence on the issue. "I look forward to the day when I will also get justice in court", she said on Twitter on Wednesday.

More than a dozen women who worked with Akbar during his days as an editor had come out with allegations ranging from sexual harassment to assault.

Another woman said Akbar cornered and pawed her when she was a junior reporter at the Asian Age newspaper in 1997. Sources further said the decision on Mr Akbar's resignation was taken after BJP president Amit Shah had a meeting with national security adviser Ajit Doval to discuss the issue on Tuesday.

India's belated #MeToo movement has made headlines in recent weeks with women sharing accounts of alleged harassment by several powerful men in the worlds of Bollywood, journalism, comedy and even cricket.

A microphone and placards are placed on the pavement as Indian journalists attend a protest against what they say is sexual harassment in the workplace in New Delhi, India, October 13, 2018. As reported in the media, Shri Akbar is attempting to involve the complainants in time-consuming and costly litigation to avoid answering the allegations which have been levelled against him.

Bahl has denied the allegations and threatened to sue his accusers for defamation. While Ramani feels vindicated, Suparna Sharma, who had accused Akbar of having plucked her bra strap, said, "We don't know who is backing and supporting him, but I am happy and glad that he has stepped down". In that piece, Ramani had written that Akbar had called her to his hotel room when she was 23 and he was 43 for a job interview which was "more date, less interview". "What he did was disgusting, he violated my boundaries, betrayed my trust", she told Huffington Post India.

They pointed out how Akbar "has demonstrated through his legal actions is his refusal to introspect, acknowledge or atone for his actions that have caused vast pain and indeed harm to many many women over the years". "The resignation of M.J. Akbar is a vindication of the power of truth even if it began with one fearless person speaking up", she tweeted. While spokespersons have called for Akbar's resignation, party chief Rahul Gandhi has not referred to the minister directly.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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